Some facts:• Reportedly budgeted at a whopping $237m (which would place it just one notch below Spider-Man 3s record-breaking $258m)• Took well over $2.6 billion in worldwide box office making it the highest grossing film of all time.• Won various awards including Oscars and Golden Globes
Old 3D• Dependent on glasses with red and green coloured lenses – a pair of closely-aligned images with different tints gave the impression of depth by fooling the eyes.
Cameron’s vision• Helped move the technology on by working alongside cinematographer Vince Pace to pioneer and patent a "fusion digital 3D camera system" in 2003.• He shot large portions of Avatar on a "virtual camera", a handheld monitor that allowed him to move through a 3D terrain, in effect editing this existing, computer-generated universe. The result, he boasts, turns cinema into "the ultimate immersive media".
The New Wave of 3D Films (or Stereoscopic)• There has been an unprecedented rise in the number of 3D studio pictures in recent years.• The box-office figures have been encouraging (the 3D version of Monsters vs Aliens earned more than its flat-screen counterpart despite playing in fewer cinemas).• All across Hollywood, studio executives are now talking publicly about mothballing their conventional 2D productions in favour of chasing after that "illusion of depth".• Stereoscopic cinema is also largely protected from the threat of piracy.
New 3D• They call it "the illusion of depth", a conjuring trick on the visual cortex.• 2 cameras shoot images side-by-side. Later, when the results are projected, the viewer interprets these dual images as a single 3D image. We see (or believe we see) a foreground, a background and, best of all, bulky projectiles that threaten to leap from the screen and land in our laps.• So far, most successful 3D movies have been entirely animated – and Cameron, too, has used computer generated images to build his virtual world.
The filming of Avatar• Avatars footage is built from around 70% CGI, including the female lead.• The cast donned motion-capture suits (leotards covered in sensors that feed the movements of the body back to a bank of computers) – and acted out their scenes on a "performance capture" stage six times bigger than anything used in Hollywood before.• In addition, the realism was improved by using a skull cap to capture the actors facial expressions, with close camera enhancement.
Filming cont.• Motion capture makes 3D much easier, not just because it allows film-makers to add the special effects later, but also by letting them position the "camera" (actually a viewpoint from inside the virtual world), wherever they want. This technique is more closely aligned with the way that high-end computer games are developed.• One major advance with Avatars setup was the creation of a virtual monitor that allowed the director to see the motion capture results in real-time, as they were filmed, instead of waiting for the computer to render the images.• Cameron also developed new techniques for the live action parts.• Cameron developed an innovative filming rig consisting of a number of stereoscopic cameras that each use a pair of lenses built to mimic human eyes – positioned close together and able to move a little in order to focus on objects that are nearby or far away. That allows the cinematographer to capture two images simultaneously, which align perfectly with and provide the illusion of depth.
Marketing Innovations• Friday 21 August 2009: officially designated "Avatar Day“ – saw the public unveiling of a full 15 minutes of teaser footage playing at hundreds of sold-out cinemas across the planet.• LONDON (21 April, 2010) – Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment announced that it would launch the industrys first rich media interactive trailer in support of the April 22 Blu-ray and DVD debut of AVATAR. Using groundbreaking new technology, the ads allowed viewers to zoom in or out of any frame, pause at any point and select hot spots without ever leaving the setting. By clicking on points of interest, consumers can access extended clips from the film and in- depth information about the world and inhabitants of Pandora.• Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment enlisted the services of international creative agency, Thinkjam, to build the interactive units and Eyeblaster, to handle the rich media serving. The result is an elegant and extremely complex product that is a key component of a global digital marketing campaign unlike anything executed before for a home entertainment release. The ads debuted simultaneously across the web in 15 markets around the world.
Exhibition• Viewing not only requires a digitally equipped cinema (sometimes with a silver- coated screen to boost the brightness), but also a pair of special polarised glasses so that the left eye and right eye can see different images shown simultaneously on the screen.• Tickets for 3D films usually retail for a few pounds more than tickets to their 2D equivalents to meet the extra production costs of a 3D film, but also because there is an extra cost to exhibitors.• The vast bulk of cinemas across the planet do not yet possess a digital projector, and without there can be no 3D screenings. This inevitably spells trouble for cash-strapped independent picture houses who may not have the funds to upgrade their equipment.• In the UK alone, only around 320 out of 3,600 cinemas are digitally equipped, while in the US the ratio is even worse (2,500 out of 38,000). "So there is a big problem looming," admits Peter Buckingham, head of distribution and exhibition at the UK Film Council. "You are looking at about a minimum of £80,000 to get yourself into a 3D position. Even with the hike in ticket prices and the potential hike in audiences, thats quite a stretch for the smaller venues. The danger is that, in this digital switchover, a number of cinemas may well be left behind."
Why 3D?• News that US audiences are choosing for the first time to see blockbuster movies in old-fashioned 2D, even when the more celebrated option is available., for eg: as box office figures for ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides’ and ‘Kung Fu Panda 2’ seem to suggest.• Previously, filmgoers have always seen 3D screenings in greater numbers, an unbroken rule that has fuelled the formats rapid growth.• 3D tickets are costly, which means yields are higher and end-of-year box office charts are slanted towards movies that are shown in stereoscope. Katzenberg, director of ‘Inception’ blames studios for embarking on cheap 2D-to-3D conversions to take advantage of the current boom, even when the movies in question were never meant to be seen in stereoscope.• Katzenberg describes the situation as "heartbreaking“ which underlines the extent of 3D fatigue among cinemagoers.
New Developments:• Michael Bays movie is being touted as this summers torch carrier for 3D – its saviour, even. Katzenberg, in particular, reckons its great. Having previously avoided the format, Micheal Bay has conscripted James Camerons people to ensure success.• So whats the 3D like?• Amazing: “Suffice to say that the blitzkrieg collision of pixel and steel up on the big screen may well be more technically brilliant than anything yet seen in the current 3D era. Oneparticularly bravura sequence sees robot-in-disguise Bumblebee transform from car to robot and back in slow-mo to avoid a collision, unwrapping and re-wrapping himselfaround Shia LaBeoufs Sam Witwicky without so much as clipping his earlobe. It drew audible gasps from the audience of critics. Another scene inside a giant alien spaceship I can only describe as like being a small insect flitting through an infinitelycomplex, mind blowingly sublime machine. In fact, for the first 10 minutes or so of the screening I found myself spellbound.” Ben Child, The Guardian
But….• Despite amazing 3D, the film failed to win critics over as the plot was criticised as being secondary to the technology.